Biden won the Debate – and it could have a Major Jersey Impact 

As former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to announce his 2020 Presidential Campaign, Insider NJ editor Max Pizarro recounts five of Biden's best campaign moments in NJ.

My analysis runs counter to that of the national “talking heads that appeared on the major cable networks after last night’s debate.  These pundits tend to declare winners and losers based upon a superficial evaluation of the optics of the candidate’s performance.   

I judge debates differently.  Specifically, I evaluate 1) where the debate left the candidate in terms of his or her issue positioning; and 2) how well did the candidate project leadership qualities, particularly presidential gravitas. 

Joe Biden was already having the best week of his campaign, due to the arrest of Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine fellow Biden dirt diggers.  This totally destroyed the credibility of Donald Trump and Giuliani in their attempt to defame Biden as a practitioner of corruption in Ukraine.  The walls of the political temple are quickly closing in on Trump, and he is no Samson. 

Biden topped off his week of recovery with an excellent debate performance, largely benefitting from his more extensive issue experience as senator and vice-president.    On foreign policy issues, at a time when Trump’s corruption and incompetence has placed these matters on center-stage, Biden displayed a mastery that no other Democratic candidate could match.  On economic issues, he displayed complete policy making coherence as to the interplay between tax and expenditure policy. On gun control, he was able to cite his role in passage of the assault weapons ban during the Clinton administration.  

Yet the most significant Biden thrust was on health care.  He, as well as Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar emphasized that while Bernie Sanders has forthrightly stated that he will raise taxes in order to finance Medicare for All, the current front runner, Elizabeth Warren, has failed to do so.  This is a significant flaw, significantly affecting the credibility of both her as a candidate overall and specifically, her health care proposals as well.  The companion flaw in Warren’s Medicare for All is the deprivation of the private health insurance option for current policy holders.  Warren continued to have no credible response for this situation. 

There was one issue that Biden could have handled better, namely the issue of his son, Hunter Biden and his statements that 1) he showed “poor judgment” in agreeing to work for Burisma the Ukraine energy company in question; and 2) his intention “not to serve on boards of, or work on behalf of, foreign owned companies.” 

When asked about Hunter, Biden basically dodged the question.  He didn’t have to.   

There is a very easy answer for Biden to give on Hunter.  All he has to do is say that he has made the decision not to allow any family member to serve in the White House in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety even when none exists.  Why doesn’t he do that? 

Nevertheless, this was the only flaw in the Biden presentation.  He projected gravitas and competence expected of a president.  He looked healthy and vigorous and promised a full disclosure of his health records, dispelling in large part concerns about his age. 

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is tied with former Vice President Joe Biden in New Hampshire, according to today's Monmouth University Poll.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is tied with former Vice President Joe Biden in New Hampshire, according to today’s Monmouth University Poll.

By contrast, Warren had her worst debate night.  As the current polling frontrunner, she had to expect to be the principal target of her opponents.  Warren is not an effective counterpuncher, however and she appeared uncomfortable in that role.  

Perhaps the worst news of the night for Warren happened off the debate stage.  The announcement that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is endorsing Bernie Sanders is most significant.  Both Sanders and Warren must carry a majority of Progressive Democrats to win the nomination, and the AOC endorsement could be a decisive factor in Bernie winning that base.  Plus, Bernie always has a good debate performance, as he did last night. 

Both Buttigieg and Klobuchar performed exceptionally well last night.  Their target is center-left mainstream voters, however, and they can only make incursions into that voting bloc if Biden starts to falter. Both boosted their vice-presidential prospects, however, particularly Klobuchar, since Biden is likely to pick a woman if he is the presidential nominee. 

To sum it up:  Biden benefitted substantially from the new focus on foreign affairs resulting from the worsening Trump scandals, while Warren’s inability to deal with the two major flaws in her Medicare for All proposal, namely the financing issue and the termination of private health insurance has created a major albatross for her.  In my view, Biden was the clear winner. 

It should be noted that Biden only needs to win one of the first three Democratic contests – the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire primary, and the Nevada caucuses – in order to establish front runner status.  Biden remains the favored candidate of a clear majority of African-American voters.  That should enable him to win South Carolina comfortably and roll towards the nomination with victories in states after South Carolina that have large African-American constituencies, most notably Florida. 

If Biden wins the nomination, as I expect, this will have a significant positive effect on the political fortunes of three New Jersey Democrats, notably public affairs guru Jim McQueeny, former Governor Jim Florio, and present Governor Phil Murphy. 

McQueeny is a prominent outside advisor to Phil Murphy and has had for decades a close relationship to Biden’s inner circle of advisors.  If Biden is elected president, Jim McQueeny becomes the “go-to” person among New Jersey Democrats to effect change at both the federal and state level. 

While serving as a member of the House of Representatives, where he served as the chair of the

Murphy in the vicinity of Malinowski.
Murphy in the vicinity of Malinowski.

Transportation and Commerce Subcommittee, Jim Florio developed a close relationship with Joe Biden, who was then known as “Mr. Amtrak.”  Every president has a group of informal senior advisors who formerly served in high positions in the federal government.  These individuals are collectively known as the “wise persons,” and I would expect that Jim Florio would be a member of this elite coterie in a Biden administration. 

Governor Phil Murphy would have one pressing need from a Biden administration, namely federal funding for the Hudson River Gateway Tunnel project.  Jim McQueeny and Jim Florio could be of vital assistance to Governor Murphy in making the case for the project to a President Biden. 

If Phil Murphy is successful in getting the necessary federal financing from a Biden administration for the Gateway Project, this will be a key in his winning a landslide reelection victory over a Republican candidate whose party brand in New Jersey has been destroyed by Trump toxicity.  

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. 

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3 responses to “Biden won the Debate – and it could have a Major Jersey Impact ”

  1. For those of you scoring at home, that makes it Booker-Klobuchar as the predicted ticket – no wait it’s Buttegieg for the nomination – never mind it will be Biden – ahem forgive me HARRIS eliminated Biden and will be the one – no hang on I think it’s gonna be Biden-Whitmer – ah just a second make that Biden-Klobuchar…..

    Since crazy predictions seem to be a dime a dozen around here permit me to throw out some real ones as opposed to the Steinbergian fantasies … Biden is out before any primaries take place. Hillary announces and becomes the nominee. (None of the candidates are about to stand in her way, if you know what I mean.) Trump-Pence, enjoying the bounce created by the collapse of the impeachment fiasco and the indictments of Strzok, Page, the Orrs, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, McCabe, Baker, and Weissman, boot the Clinton-Abrams ticket back to Ukraine from whence her campaign plotting originated.

    Trump makes America even greater over the next four years at which time Pence decides not to subject his family to the vile rhetoric of the ever more deranged left. There aren’t too many Trump-types out there who can take the vitriol and hand it right back, but one is found and nominated. Cheney-Grennell score 47 states in their battle with Ocasio-Cortez-Tlaib. I would say the left is never heard from again but that’s not realistic and I am strictly a realist 😉

  2. The response of the clear, competent, gravitas-filled Joe Biden to the Sanders/Warren wealth tax plans, verbatim:

    “No, look, demonizing wealth — what I talked about is how you get things done. And the way to get things done is take a look at the tax code right now. The idea — we have to start rewarding work, not just wealth. I would eliminate the capital gains tax — I would raise the capital gains tax to the highest rate, of 39.5 percent.
    I would double it, because guess what? Why in God’s name should someone who’s clipping coupons in the stock market make — in fact, pay a lower tax rate than someone who, in fact, is — like I said — the — a schoolteacher and a firefighter? It’s ridiculous. And they pay a lower tax.
    Secondly, the idea that we, in fact, engage in this notion that there are — there’s $1,640,000,000,000 in tax loopholes. You can’t justify a minimum $600 billion of that. We could eliminate it all. I could go into detail had I the time.
    Secondly — I mean, thirdly, what we need to do is we need to go out and make it clear to the American people that we are going to — we are going to raise taxes on the wealthy. We’re going to reduce tax burdens on those who are not.”

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